BOCA RATON – With a new offensive scheme, a new defensive scheme and a plethora of new players, FAU coaches recognized there would be moments of confusion during the season opener.
Friday’s loss to Navy featured several such instances – one of which drove momentum firmly onto Navy’s sideline.
Already leading 14-10, Navy launched what appeared likely to be the final drive of the first half from its own 20 with 1:42 remaining in the second quarter.
The run-happy Midshipmen had other ideas. Navy came out throwing – an incompletion – before quarterback Zach Abey rushed for a first down. Facing a second-and-seven from their own 35, Abey found Tyler Carmona streaking behind the secondary for 56 yards.
Why was Carmona so open? Defensive coordinator Chris Kiffin made a late change to the defensive call, but only some of the Owls learned of Kiffin’s decision.
“We just weren’t on the same page with everything,” said linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, who was tasked with relaying the change. “I put it on myself because I’ve got to make sure everybody is lined up and knows what the call is and everything like that. We weren’t communicating well and didn’t execute well.”
Three plays later Joshua Walker scampered four yards for the touchdown, sending Navy into the break with a 21-10 lead. FAU never drew any closer.
The offense, which featured a starting quarterback and four wide receivers who didn’t participate in spring practice, also experienced its share of miscommunications. The most noticeable may have come in the first half when Daniel Parr fired a pass to wide receiver DeAndre McNeal who, rather than looking for the ball, was attempting to throw a block.
Parr had audibled to a different play than was originally called prior to the snap, but McNeal didn’t see Parr’s signal because he was concentrating on the football in anticipation of the snap and not looking at the QB.
“I take total blame for that actual play where I was blocking,” McNeal said. “He changed the play. I didn’t get it.”
FAU also struggled with snaps – Antonyo Woods, who converted from guard to center during the spring sent three over the QB’s heads – and had multiple misreads both on offense and defense.
Owls coach Lane Kiffin watched FAU make the same mistakes in practice and wasn’t surprise those issues resurfaced during the game. Familiarity didn’t make the errors more palatable.
“If it’s going to happen in practice, to me, and maybe I’m old school, it’s going to happen in the game,” Kiffin said. “And so when the snaps that you guys see in practice go over the head, it’s going to happen in the game. If you don’t make the right read, it’s going to happen in the game. …I just don’t believe that you show up on game day and all of the sudden things work.”